Well, it sure wasn't the way the New York Giants wanted to open their Super Bowl title defense, as they fell to the Dallas Cowboys in frustrating fashion, 24-17. New York came out strong on defense, and it really looked like it was just going to be a matter of time before they took full control of the game. A fumble from rookie David Wilson, a couple of drops and miss tackles later, and the Giants found themselves trailing 14-3 with injuries piling up at cornerback as Michael Coe was forced to leave the football game.
Manning got the Giants into the end zone with 2:36 to go, but the defense couldn't get the ball back for Eli and the offense with 2:00 left, as Tony Romo hit Kevin Ogletree on one last slant to put New York away.
Key Reason for Loss: Inability to match up with Dallas wide receivers on defense
Look, the Giants offensive line certainly didn't do much too help with the way they played both in pass protection and (even worse) on the ground. That being said, the cornerbacks just did not give Manning and the offense the chance to compete in this game. Dallas went to town on Michael Coe and Justin Tryon, as Ogletree, Miles Austin, and Dez Bryant combined for 272 yards and three scores on sixteen catches. Corey Webster, one of the league's best one on one covermen over the past two years, had arguably his worst game since the 2007 season. When it came down to just one third and ten with a little over two minutes to go and Dallas sure to go to a quick, high percentage throw, the Giants once again could not defend the inside slant as Ogletree put the game away after torching the Giants for two touchdowns earlier. The Giants had the ball for less than 26 minutes in this game as the Cowboys continued to move the chains and control the pace.
- Very impressive debut from tight end Martellus Bennett, who we talked about this off-season as a guy with a boatload of physical tools and the potential to be a huge addition to the passing game over the middle, as well as the running game with his elite blocking skills for the position. Bennett's talent was on full display as he played a very aware, active, and complete football game for New York. Good start, let's see how his chemistry with Manning develops from here.
- Strong showing by the safeties, particularly Antrel Rolle who was very active, making a beautiful play to break through the line and stop Lawrence Vickers on a fourth down and one in the first quarter. Nice tackling in the open field and great aggression against the run from Rolle.
- Ahmad Bradshaw has one of the best stiff arms in football and runs with a real presence when he gets into space. If this Giants offensive line can get it together, Bradshaw is the type of runner that can demoralize defenses with his physicality.
- Eli Manning is still Eli Manning, isn't he? A sharp performance from the franchise signal caller in which he once again led his team into the end zone multiple times after they fell behind, but he just did not get the opportunity to close out the fourth quarter with a tying touchdown drive. With the way he threw the ball, does anyone think he wouldn't have put the Giants in position to take the game into overtime if they got the football back?
- Jason Pierre-Paul is a flat out force on this defensive line and will continue to be one. No sacks, but he was a handful for this Dallas offensive line no matter how many guys they put on him and how much attention was shifted his way. Picking up where he left off.
- More strong punting from Steve Weatherford, another guy who picked up where he left off last season.
- Solid showing from Keith Rivers. He flashed a lot of quickness and awareness underneath in his time on the field. Great athlete, if he can stay healthy and keep focusing on playing up to his physical skills, he has a high ceiling.
- I don't want to hear the talk that somehow it's a negative sign that rookie David Wilson may have shown some emotion when he reportedly teared up on the sideline after his fumble. That is something Giants fans should take as one of the big positives in this game – because all I see from Wilson is a guy who's extremely committed to being successful in this league and very committed to making it happen. Count me in as very impressed with the type of prospect the Giants have in Wilson.
- Michael Boley intercepts a Tony Romo throw and brings it back 51 yards down to the Dallas two yard line and this offensive line can't get Ahmad Bradshaw a lane to the end zone? Absolutely inexcusable and disappointing. That's not the type of football this team takes pride in.
- To stick with the offensive line group, they have got to take several steps forward before this Giants offense can score the way they did against the better teams last season. That run blocking in the first half was some of the worst I've ever seen from a Giants offensive line, and that includes last season where they were worst in the league in rushing. Not to mention the fact that Eli Manning wasn't well protected on Wednesday night either. They've got to regroup or Jerry Reese and Tom Coughlin are sure to shake things up.
- Missed tackles were another problem, and from some of the best tacklers in the front seven at crucial moments. Mathias Kiwanuka, Justin Tuck? That can't happen.
- Rough night for Victor Cruz. A lot of drops (three) on very well thrown balls, and unfortunately they came in big spots. He'll need to put this one behind him and just focus on being Victor Cruz for this offense. Bad games happen. Let's wait a few weeks before killing the guy for enjoying his off-season Giants fans. Very talented, very hard working player who I expect to bounce back.
- Where was the pass rush? Outside of some early plays from the interior defensive lineman and a few single handedly dominant plays from JPP, this pass rush was neutralized by a very average Dallas offensive line. Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora have got to have a much bigger impact going forward for this defense to get back to where it was in the postseason last year.
- Prince Amukamara better get healthy quick, because this cornerback group looks like a real issue. Corey Webster picked a bad night to have his worst game in years, as Michael Coe and Justin Tryon were obliterated by the Dallas wide receivers all game long. They just looked completely overwhelmed by the game and the moment.
- 33% on third down isn't going to get it done against good teams in this league. The Giants just looked out of sync in key situations offensively in this game.
PLAYER OF THE GAME – QB Eli Manning
One of the few players that really showed up on Wednesday night, Manning looked sharp and in control of this offense even with little help around him. The offensive line played poorly, there was a fumble that killed one of the team's better drives of the game early, and several drops by his receivers. He still took very good care of the football and even with all the miscues put his team back in position to take the game into overtime.
OVERALL PERFORMANCE GRADE
A handful of Giants played well in this game. Manning was sharp, Ahmad Bradshaw played with intensity and passion even when his offensive line was giving him reason to get frustrated, and Antrel Rolle and JPP were standout performers defensively.
That being said, this just was not an impressive night for Big Blue. There were missed tackles in the front seven, there was extremely poor coverage defensively, uninspired blocking from the offensive line, and several mistakes on both sides of the football. "Humble pie" is what Tom Coughlin felt the team experienced Wednesday night.
It was a rough night for the Giants and Big Blue fans, and while it was a division game, it was the first game of the season and this team has shown time and time again how it responds to struggle and adversity – taking after their head coach. 0-1 is not where New York wanted to be, but they have to turn to this next game against Tampa Bay and immediately consider it a big game with their schedule this season. There's no time to look back and dwell on what happened.
Dallas is a solid football team and you knew they were going to come into the Meadowlands and take their best shot at the team that ended their season. The Giants played a very mediocre football game and were still in position to go into overtime and win with a little over two minutes left.
If they can avoid getting too caught up in this game and get their focus to Tampa Bay and the rest of the season, the Giants will be just fine. If they're still talking about this game through the weekend and early next week, there may be cause for concern. Knowing the way Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning operate, I wouldn't think that that will be the case.
If you want something to be excited about – take the performance of Martellus Bennett. He really has a shot to develop a very impactful role with this offense.
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